Several hundred people — women and men, old and young, black and white — stretched along Toledo’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Bridge, holding signs, waving peace signs, and shouting chants of unity and love.
They aimed to send a message as they marched together:
“To anyone who doubts that people who live in this wonderful city and county care about people who unfortunately have been characterized in such ways that we know are demeaning and belittling,” said Lisa McDuffie, president and CEO of the YWCA, which organized the I Rise Unity March.
PHOTO GALLERY: I Rise Unity March
Friday’s march took place about five hours after Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States and as protesters took to the streets in Washington. But Ms. McDuffie said the group planned to march no matter who took over in the White House, to affirm Toledo as a welcoming, engaged community.
The march ended downtown at Trinity Episcopal Church for a community celebration.
Rita Barbour and Beverly Stephens-Davis of Toledo attended the march in solidarity for women’s rights. They spent the last two presidential inaugurations in Washington to witness Barack Obama take the oath of office but chose to stay in Toledo for President Trump’s first day in office.
“Hopefully he’ll calm down and be the president for all the people, men, women, no matter what color you are, or what your religious preference is,” Ms. Barbour said. “Everybody wants this country to move forward, regardless of who is in the White House.”
Jana Smith marched on Friday with friend Amy Lavetter, in part because their 17-year-old daughters were heading to the nation’s capital Saturday for the Women’s March on Washington. They were unable to go along, but still wanted to “stand up and be counted,” Mrs. Smith said.
“We have to find a way to come together,” she said. “What’s done is done, and so I think that’s my other hope for things like this is that, in Toledo, people can recognize you can’t continue to be divisive.”
Mary Ellen Hogan of Perrysburg was en route to Washington on Friday to represent northwest Ohio at the Women’s March. She ran into dozens of women of all ages at rest stops along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, all wearing pink hats and heading to the nation’s capital.
She said it was heartening to know so many people, both in Toledo and across the country, were standing together in support of women’s rights.
“I’m very proud to be a part of it,” Ms. Hogan said. “We need to be listened to. We are a force. It’s women of all — whether you’re a Republican, whether you’re a Democrat — women of all persuasions. This is your opportunity to say to this administration, ‘We are not silenced.’”
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